A perspective from another parent

My wife forwarded an article by Jen Hatmaker regarding parenting especially of young children. I found it to be encouraging, normalizing, and authentic. Three things that all of us parents need. I think I most appreciated the sense of "me too". It has been said that when it comes to parenting we just need to be good enough and to know we are not alone. Here is the link to the article..."I Wish Someone Would've Warned Me About These BIG FEELINGS" 


Suffering, Pain, and Surrender

There is so much to be said, lived, and processed around pain and yet we rarely talk about it in our daily lives. Instead, we find that society invites us to avoid it through some invitation that subtly says, "this will bring you happiness" or "this will take away the pain". The reality is that true joy must be lived through the pain not away from it. The means that we must surrender or fall into it not from it. This is why Step 3 in the Twelve Step program is so powerful which says, "Made a Decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as I understood Him".

The paradox to our pain is in the surrendering to it. Life is found once we surrender to the struggle albeit emotional, physical, and mental. There is life on the other side though it cannot be known or understood until we grow through it. Richard Rohr writes is so well in a recent daily mediation that I have linked that he titled Luminous Darkness

 or click here http://conta.cc/1qTCBdt

The Hope for Group and Community...

I am more and more convinced that healing must take place through the vehicle of relationship. I view relationship holistically from that standpoint of relationship with ourselves, with others, and with God. That being said, I find that the most growth happens in the context of community. A healing community doesn't just happen because people meet together. It happens when we feel safe. It happens when we know that what we say or do will be held within the group and we won't be judged, rejected, or corrected. It means that those in a group allow each of us "to be as we are" and to experience acceptance for our being. It requires an implicit knowledge of "being with". Meaning that you know because you know that others "feel" your pain. It is in the place of experiencing "being known" that we begin to be healed. When we are known by others, we experience the most fundamental and core needs that we matter, that we are understood, and that we can count on another to be there with us. 

Group therapy invites us to start taking the risks of being known both currently and historically. Trust, security, and safety has to be earned by a group but not demanded. It is once you get a sense of that security that you can begin to open up. Group gently invites us to be authentic by seeing others authenticity. I have heard it said that "vulnerability begets vulnerability". Our group motto is "come as you are, be as you are." Which means that there is no time table / pressure to this process other than showing up. The reality is that group is just a microcosm for a larger sense of community.

Parker Palmer says it well when he says:

"The Soul is like a wild animal -- tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient, and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek." ~ quoted from Let Your Life Speak.


The Gift of Children

As a child, you are less concerned with the future and are able to just enjoy that very moment. A child in many ways, "doesn't have a worry in the world" other than what he or she is doing right then. Children live with their emotions on their sleeve and have the ability to be fully present. They serve as a reminder to be present. 

Honestly, this is really hard for me. My default is to start thinking about the future which causes me to have anxiety, fear, and can turn into control. So the first step is to just notice; where you are, what you are doing, and what you are feeling. That will then usually bring up other other emotions such as fear, anxiety, etc. If that happens, let it run its course and call somebody. Call a friend and tell them exactly what is happening. Children do this much better than we do. Watch what a child does next time a tornado warning is given. They will be afraid and will let you know but they draw near to you. That is how we are made. We need others and we need the ability to draw near to somebody else. The greatest damage we can do to our soul is when we try to do it alone. 

Children bring so many gifts and one of the gifts they bring is to help us see life through the lens of a child. It is through this lens we see joy, honesty, and hope. 

The Power of Words

I recently came across this poem and it resonated with me regarding each of our stories. I believe that so much of the therapeutic process is learning to find the words that connect us with our past and present. It is in finding these words that we grieve in a new way. A new way that helps us reorganize our pain. The poem is titled "The World Seems" by Gregory Orr. The link to his poem is below. 





I am constantly recommending the following link to clients regarding shame and vulnerability. Brene Brown explains through her research on shame what exactly shame is and the way to live through it, with it, and how to use it. Here is the link...

Grieving A New Way

Grief is all too often limited to pain, tears, and suffering. This is certainly a part of grief but it doesn't have to be all of it. A great exercise is to think back to a time in your life when you have had intense grief? What memory comes up? Were you alone? Did you feel better afterwards? More often than not, the memory is negative because we were alone and did not feel better.

We often want to avoid grief because of our previous grief experience. Our resistance has some validity to it. It tells us something about our story. If your grief memory was of you being alone then certainly why would you want to go back to a lonely and grief filled place.

The hope is that we can all enter into a phrase of grief that does not equal suffering. Rather it equals a reorganizing joy. Grief and joy can coexist! I have often sat with people who have and are going through recovery where they describe a profound sense of joy in the grief. That is why so many people say that the emotion of sadness is the healing feeling. Recovery of one's heart allows us to feel joy for the first time instead of grief.  For so many, tears were a dead end and lonely street. So for many, you stopped crying because it didn't help. For others, it just led to more despair. 

John Bowlby and Colin Murray Parkes, pioneers in attachment theory, broke down grief into 4 phases: (1) Shock and Numbness, (2) Yearning and Searching, (3) Despair and Disorganization, (4) Reorganization and Recovery. 

There is a treasure at the end of the rainbow. Our story is longing to be seen, told, and grieved in new ways. If you find yourself acting in the same old pattern then take a gracious look at your story. Our negative reactions and behaviors really are unresolved trauma and grief. The invitation is to start thinking and talking about those events of pain so that you can grieve them in a new deeper way, a fresh clean way. These tears lead us to wholeness and joy not despair. We all need help in reorganizing and making sense of our grief otherwise it stays stuck. The beauty is a not only a shared storied but a shared experience. Our stories are too valuable for grief to be shared by ourselves.

The Impact of Relationship

If you are like me, I am so prone to only wanting pleasantries in relationships. My default is to take the positive but shy away, defend, or run from the negative aspects of relationship. The problem with this style is that its really not a dynamic relationship. It is a relationship but it is impaired. It is not fluid and clean. The goal for any relationship is that we can go to those closest to us in both positive and negative ways where they are not only impacted by us but can help filter and embrace us in our pain. Thereby helping sooth our pain. We need this type of relationship and it is when we can't have this that the relationship really starts to suffer.

The truth is that we impact each other in relationship. There is always going to be some positive and negative mixed in. It is just the nature of it. We are made to be impacted by each other so that we can respond not react. The challenge for so many of us is that if our story was one of reacting to our emotions not responding then it is impossible not to continue on in that same pattern. This is where we need our own healing. All of us need to be responded to but not reacted to. A safe relationship is one where you can "be you" responding to your true self not your false self and vise versa.

I have found that one of the best groups and resources is found in the Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) communities. 

Emotions...and its role in relationship

When you hear the word emotion what comes to mind? For me, I used to think of emotion as predominately something to avoid such as sadness, anger, and especially fear. I definitely did everything to avoid fear. I also thought our emotions were not something to give too much weight to because it would dictate what I felt like doing. Thereby, throwing out my ethics and morality. For example, 'I don't feel like taking care of my kids today so I will just go and play golf', etc. The reality and danger is by not recognizing and naming the emotion.

It is important to distinguish between the words "feeling" and "emotion". Emotion in Latin means to move and is a noun. Whereas, the word feeling is a verb and its root means to perceive. Feelings subjectively represent emotion. Emotions are initial / internal attitudes like mad, sad, fear, shame, etc. Feelings, on the other hand, are a product of the emotions and more a "state of being" like joyfulness or depression. 

Emotions are necessary realities. We really cannot control them but we can regulate them. 
Also, they are not the end all. Emotions are fluid so they come and go. These are the gateway to our soul. It illuminates our needs and vulnerabilities. It allows us to then be able to have empathy. Empathy is the gift. We have to have empathy in order to connect. Without empathy, we cannot have connectedness at the deep core level of our being.

The reality is that emotions are the musical notes but do not comprise of the whole dance. We need emotions because it gives us the ability to know how to dance and what step to take next. But we are not the only one's dancing. When we have emotion, we usually have it with somebody else. In fact, we need to have emotions with another person. That is how we are made. We are made to experience this together. We actually need another person to help us co-regulate our emotions. We were never designed to regulate our emotions by ourselves. Our human natures requires that we process emotions through co-regulation not self-regulation. A person with us, a parent, a spouse, a friend is what we need in order to help us breath. I have heard it said that connection is like oxygen. Well, the emotions can either hinder us or aid us in helping us breath this oxygen. With life's tragedies and struggles we need others to help us breath!

Some great books that further clarifies and explains this is Dr. Sue Johnson's book "Hold Me Tight" or "The Circle of Security Intervention" by Powell, Cooper, Hoffman, and Marvin.

Childhood Memories

The memories of good triumph the bad,

        But sitting here now invites me to feel sad.

Young, ambitious, naive to the workings of the world,

       How I wish I had some in a bottle to be unfurled.

The days in the woods, the use of the family card, it was all free or so it seemed,

       Now I know the cost, bound by fear or so I've deemed.

Nights on the river bank with the stars too numerous to count,

       How do I regain those carefree moments...it seems so hard to surmount. 

Nostalgia can be tricky because we only see a side,

       But if it helps me live out of heart then I'll take any of it any stride!

But I know I'll look back on these days just the same,

       So it beckons me to grab my loved ones holding them in this present frame.

To live wholehearted is a noble task,

       Because you can't be present, with heart, and live behind a mask.

- James Trone

Guard Rails of Relationship

Relationships are such a wonderful, mysterious, and risky dance.  Healthy relationships absolutely require the sense of safety and security. This breeds authenticity. It requires a lot of courage and vulnerability to ask for help. I have seen and experienced two ways when seeking help from another person. One way is through correction / confrontation with the intent of speaking "truth". The other way is through compassion which breeds connection.

The first way is very prevalent in our society. It is the way of advice giving that is often masked by judgement and "shoulds". Many people default to this route because it is all they know. It ends up being a relationship based on power and authority. It inevitability puts our performance above our being. The focus is put on our actions instead of us. The giver of advice ends up being in a position as if they know what is best for you. It throws being "with us" out the door. Correction is put ahead of connection.

The other way is of a gentle path. The path to healthy relationships is compassion not correction, connection not confrontation. The truth is that we will naturally be confronted by truth because it is already in us. It does not take someone else "speaking into". Instead, we come "out of" when we feel a sense of safety with connection. It is vulnerability over power, empathy over judgement, connection over correction.  

There is a time and place for advice but it is secondary to our being with another person. The guard rails to healthy relationships are compassion and connection which end up being soft, soothing, and secure. Let mercy lead!

Living in the In-Between

The struggle to stay in the moment is a life long practice. It seems like there is a magnet with the polars ends either being the past or future. The polar ends are always pulling at us to leave this present moment. I think this is the same with emotions and attitudes. This gap creates a wake of contrast that can be beautiful. 

This contrast is most visible when you look at moments that create an avalanche of emotions. If you have children, think of the times where they are so full of life that it creates chaos, life, joy, frustration, angry all in a span of 10 minutes. This energy can be enormous and certainly anxiety provoking. It can be beautiful chaos. 

I believe that we start out life with an idea of how it is supposed to work and along the way we begin to see things differently. It either happens gradually or abruptly. Either way, it provides us with the opportunity to regain that childlike faith. I liken this quest to recovery. Recovery doesn't have to be so much about recovery from a certain drug but more about recovering one's heart.

Life and recovery is about learning to live being uncomfortable. It is accepting and living in the contrast. The contrast of glad / sad, joy / sorrow, hope / despair, courage / meekness. We so often strive to have the positive side and flee from the negative all the while missing living in the in-between. Life in the in-between is a picture of surrender.

It is a surrender with hope still at bay. It is grieved gratitude. It is a picture of the already and the not yet. This picture beckons us to wait...as if we are still in the pains of labor...longing for our dream to be realized. The challenge is to see that life is happening and learning to wait and see.

When we become Orphans...

It seems that somewhere along our journey we call "life" we slowly drift away from being childlike. I do not know where it happens and when we do it but we often stop playing and become much more serious. Life starts hitting us and opens us up to become bitter, resentful, and jaded. We stop dreaming so much and instead start demanding. We stop playing. 

In essence, we start losing sight of a our childhood and childhood ways and become an orphan. We learn to adapt by living alone yet with people around. We learn to be self-sufficient and keep our deep emotions hidden. We learn to exchange play for surviving. In so many ways, therapy is about finding the inner child in each of us. Therapy's purpose is about helping each of us find that orphaned boy or girl that we left behind and reconnecting with what Richard Rohr calls our "soul child". I am reminded of  the following poem called "The Little Orphan" by Edgar Albert Guest which speaks so deeply about this:

The crowded street his playground is, a patch of blue his sky;

A puddle in a vacant lot his sea where ships pass by:

Poor little orphan boy of five, the city smoke and grime

Taint every cooling breeze he gets throughout the summer time;

And he is just as your boy is, a child who loves to play,

Except that he is drawn and white and cannot get away.


And he would like the open fields, for often in his dreams

The angels kind bear him off to where are pleasant streams,

Where he may sail a splendid boat, sometimes he flies a kite,

Or romps beside a shepherd dog and shouts with all his might;

But when the dawn of morning comes he wakes to find once more

That what he thought were sun-kissed hills are rags upon the floor.


Then through the hot and sultry day he plays at “make-pretend,”

The alley is a sandy beach where all the rich folks send

Their little boys and girls to play, a barrel is his boat,

But, oh, the air is tifling and the dust fills up his throat;

And though he tries so very hard to play, somehow it seems

He never gets such wondrous joys as angels bring in dreams.


Poor little orphan boy of five, except that he is pale,

With sunken cheeks and hollow eyes and very wan and frail,

Just like that little boy of yours, with same desire to play,

Fond of the open fields and skies, he’s built the self-same way;

But kept by fate and circumstance away from shady streams,

His only joy comes when he sleeps and angels bring him dreams.

"The Little Orphan" by Edgar Albert Guest

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings...

Last week, I was saddened to hear of the death of Maya Angelou. She was an amazing person who seemed to have such an authentic presence that was undeniably attractive. When she spoke you could not help but stop and listen. Her words, thoughts, and ideas carried so much weight. She was a living example of one who had lost her voice but found it again and sought to never lose it again. Her life is such a message of hope that all is not lost. 

Her first autobiography is titled, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings". This title comes from a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar. The last stanza of the poem reads as follows, 

"I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
      When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore, --
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
      But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core, 
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings--
I know why the caged bird sings!"

This poem strikes me with the sense of community. We know another person's pain only by having our own. Pain is the great medium to connecting. 

Secure Attachment (Knowing when your Home)

The term attachment is widely used in psychology circles but not used as much or understood in the general public. I first learned of the concept of attachment around friends who had either adopted or were considering adoption. I thought it to be more associated with infants connecting to mothers and that was the extent of the idea. 

What I have come to realize is that attachment speaks so much to our story and how that connects to relationship. Attachment speaks to the way we perceive, think, feel, and interact with others. Our attachment style directly affects how we control and engage ourselves with others. We either heighten, suppress, or accurately connect with others on an emotional basis. For better or for worse, we were given a template by our parents that literally instructed us in how to emotionally relate to them, ourselves, and others. How we got our primary caregiver to take care of us has directly affected how we currently relate to people in our inner circle.

If you are around a 3 to 4 year old child, watch how they relate. Most of them are still very open and use all their emotions while being fully willing to be "needy". They, in fact, are living out how they were created to "be". The struggle comes for us as parents in relating to these needy, dependent, and often times uncontrollable children. It is just plain hard at times. 

It is in these difficult moments that often define and tell how we were taught to do feelings and needs.  The truth is that we are all needy and we need others to help sooth and regulate us. I heard Kenny Sanderfer say that "we are made to co-regulate not self-regulate."  So the emotions of a 4 year boy are really just signals to us that more is going on below the surface than just a tantrum. The same is true for us. The challenge comes with the attachment style of how we connect. Do we avoid, pursue, become disorganized, or a mixture of these?

So much of therapy is helping us reconnect with suppressed emotions as well as experience new ways of relating emotionally with others. This may sound simple but it is very hard and risky. It requires so much safety. It requires a belief that the other person will be able to not only sit with you but "be" with you in those moments. It requires each of us to go through our own pain. 

I believe we will go through great capacities to connect. Our human capacity for love is astounding. It is in these relentless moments of "wanting to be wanted and understood" that really speak to the beauty of our humanity. But it can't just stop there for us. We need to be known. This means letting those closest to us in the darkest rooms of our soul. It is there that we get to be apart of a very spiritual like experience. The experience of another human being knowing the good, the bad, and all the in between and loving you for all of it.  It is in those moments that you know you are home.

Upcoming Men's Group

Upcoming Men's Group --------------------------------------

We are offering a new men's therapy group starting June 12th. The purpose of the group is to help facilitate a deeper connection with ourselves and with others.

For those who have attended a previous group, this will be a continuation of the work we have already started. The difference is that this group will primarily be a process group that is focused on our emotional experiences in the context of a group.

Details -------------------------------------------------------------

What: Men’s Emotionally Focused Therapy Group (14 weeks)
When:  Thursday mornings - 6:30 to 8:00 am
Begins: June 12th
Where:  1815 Division Street, Suite 300, Nashville 37203
Cost:  Payment of $560 (equals $40 per group) to be paid upon 2nd group meeting.
Facilitators:  James Trone and Noelle Warner
Obligation: The first week is informational and experiential. It allows for you to decide after the first meeting whether or not you would like to continue.

If you are interested in attending or would like more information please e-mail us at:
james@jamestrone.com or noellewarner@comcast.net

The Power of Contrast

The Power of Contrast is a phrase I heard a few months ago regarding the topic of pain, trauma, and loss. Basically, it means there is a place for both extremes of life. We often only want happiness, joy, and delight. I know that is the way I am bent. But the reality is that I can't know joy without sorrow because I would have no context for it. I believe so much of life is spent fighting against the contrast rather than accepting it as reality. There is a beautiful article out of the Huffington Post that my wife forwarded to me that completely summarizes this contrast. 

Here is an excerpt from Glennon Melton's article...

"How was my day? Today has been a lifetime. It was the best of times and the worst of times. There were moments when my heart was so full I thought I might explode, and there were other moments when my senses were under such intense assault that I was CERTAIN I'd explode. I was both lonely and absolutely desperate to be alone. I was saturated -- just BOMBARDED with touch and then the second I put down this baby I yearned to smell her sweet skin again. I was simultaneously bored out of my skull and completely overwhelmed with so much to do. Today was too much and not enough. It was loud and silent. It was brutal and beautiful. I was at my very best today and then, just a moment later, at my very worst."

Click Here for the Article by Glennon Melton out of the Huffington Post

The Second Innocence is Better than the First.

There is an ongoing tension for me how much time I spend on my past verses being in the present. The reality is that we can't really be in the present without going into our past and grieving that which was lost. On the other hand, if we are so caught up in the past, we completely miss out on what is going on around us. I'm finding that there is a third way. It is when our past story and the present collide. This merging of our past and present is beautiful yet uncontrollable. It is during these moments that remind us of our humanity and can be rich if we welcome them. The problem is there is no real formula nor is there a timetable that you can dial in. The only ingredients are surrender, mystery, and reverence.

It is when our past weaves into our present that we get a picture into our soul. Though it may be a small and faded picture, it reminds me of the child within me that has been forgotten or relegated to a lesser role.  

This reminds me of a quote by Parker Palmer that says, "The soul is like a wild animal - tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient, and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek". 

This past and present is so very similar to communion. Communion is not only communion with God but it also includes those who preceded us and those who will follow us to death. It struck me that communion is so much more than my narrow view. What struck me was the broadness of whom I am participating with in communion. I am at that moment communing with my Grandparents and my brother and others. Time stands still for that moment. The same is true with our story. Our memories and our feelings can serve as a gift reminding us of our dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It serves as a reminder that while we are living in this world, this is not our home. Our emotions, grieving, and pain are really pains for being homesick for heaven and that an ever small voice is reminding us that we are not home yet. We can ignore them, fight them, or accept them.

Our story is too important to diminish. We only live this life once. Time is drawing near and that while we may have forgotten parts our story, our whole story is not forgotten nor will it ever be.

Better to feel pain...

The past few weeks, an outsider looking into my world may think "life is good". Especially, if you saw my life through the lens of Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. The truth is that life is good and full. My family is healthy and I have a roof over my head. So part of me says, "James, you should be grateful". 

But life is painful. The odd thing is there is no current specific thing making life so painful. So why does it hurt so much when I slow down enough to pay attention to my heart? I am beginning to realize that I look for other things, events, and people to help ease my pain. This pain is heavy and it is real. It is so uncomfortable at times that I find myself wanting to do anything to get out of it. If you are like me, there is a Sunday School type answer whispering in my head, "Well, just go to God and He will take away your pain". 

To be very honest, I do not like this one bit. I want out of the pain but to acknowledge that I am powerless to it is so very hard. This may sound obvious but when I'm in the midst of the pain, it is really hard to let go. Because to let go means that I have to acknowledge that I am powerless. I do not like giving up control.

The hope is that there is relief from our pain. And I keep coming back to the fact that the only real relief is God and the relationships we have with Him and others. I was given some good news when I read that Jesus is all about healing. I saw this in Richard Rohr's book "Breathing Under Water". Rohr states, "healing was about all that he did...Jesus was concerned about it now, and about its healing now". So why do I not get healing from my pain? In the end, I know that God does not work that way, meaning on my time table. If he did...then I guess I would be "godlike" since I would be dictating to him the plans, the timing of events, and the healing that needed to unfold.

I also know that pain is used to help teach us life lessons. This is another truth I really do not like. But would I trade it? There is great song by The Lumineers that you may have heard called "Stubborn Love". There are two lines in the song that I love:

It's better to feel pain, than nothing at all
The opposite of love is indifference

This gets me thinking about times I have risked it and been hurt along the way and times I held back. Just think of love, it is such a risk to put your heart out there with the real chance you can be rejected...but isn't it better like the song says "to feel pain, than nothing at all".

I am reminded of my days growing up wakeboarding on the lake. Back in the day, my brothers and I would try new tricks to up the ante and have fun. I can remember days sitting in the boat debating whether I would try some new trick. The riskiest trick we ever tried was the "air raley" which kind of looks like your are flying in the air like superman with the board over your head. The risk is that if you did not land it you would do a belly flop on the lake. This meant a lot of pain especially if you were going over 20 mph. I remember the desire to land it but being so scared of the pain it could bring. The rule was if you didn't go "all out" you were sure to risk not making the jump. It was not a jump for the faint of heart. You may be wondering, "Why would someone subject themselves to pain like this"? There was something that pulled us to try and go all out for the sheer fun of it. There were a few times where I choose not to try a trick and felt a loss like I missed out by playing it safe. And when we landed it, the whole boat would erupt with cheers and fist bumps.

I say all this because when I think back on this story I have a lot of nostalgia around those days on the lake. It felt as if time stood still.  I believe it also showed me a picture of how I was made...made to be alive, made to have heart, and made to feel...to feel the glad and sad.

There is a great video that shows a younger brother looking up to his older brother playing baseball. It is a picture of holding glad and sad (i.e. pain) together. This younger brother wants to be just like his brother and mimics everything he did even when he saw his brother lose. Coincidentally, the song "Stubborn Love" plays in the background. See below.